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Primary dysmenorrhea and self-care strategies among Chinese college girls: a cross-sectional study
  1. Ling Chen1,
  2. Lu Tang1,
  3. Shengyu Guo1,
  4. Atipatsa Chiwanda Kaminga2,
  5. Huilan Xu1
  1. 1 Department of Social Medicine and Health Management, XiangYa School of Public Health, Central South University, Changsha, China
  2. 2 Department of Epidemiology and Health Statistics, XiangYa School of Public Health, Central South University, Changsha, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Huilan Xu; xhl6363{at}


Objectives To explore the prevalence of primary dysmenorrhea (PD), the characteristics of PD and self-care strategies for managing PD among Chinese college girls.

Design Cross-sectional study.

Setting Changsha, China.

Participants A total of 2555 college girls were recruited using multistage cluster random sampling.

Outcome measures A self-report questionnaire was used to measure sociodemographic information, characteristics of PD and self-care strategies for managing PD. Additionally, a Visual Analogue Scale was used to measure pain severity.

Results Of the 2555 girls, 1306 had experienced PD, representing a 51.1% prevalence. In addition, the prevalence rates of mild, moderate and severe pain in PD were 18.1%, 27.7% and 5.4%, respectively. The most common symptoms associated with PD were cramps (96.9%), weakness (70.0%), backache (65.1%), facial blemishes (55.3%) and irritability (55.3%). Commonly used self-care strategies for managing PD comprised reducing physical activity (94.6%), keeping warm (84.6%), communicating dysmenorrhea with friends or classmates (79.0%), drinking warm beverages (75.7%) and avoiding cold drinks and foods (74.2%). In addition, only 34.8% self-medicated with Western medicine (15.6%), traditional Chinese medicine (8.6%), or both (10.6%). Medical advice was sought by 27.4% of subjects from a Western medical doctor (10.3%), a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine (13.6%), or both (3.5%). Girls who had greater pain severity were more likely to be self-medicated (OR=7.01; 95% CI 4.50 to 10.91), use complementary therapies (OR=2.64; 95% CI 1.70 to 4.10) and seek medical advice (OR=5.93; 95% CI 3.80 to 9.24).

Conclusions PD is highly prevalent among Chinese college girls, with a high burden of symptoms. In addition, these girls are most likely to change their lifestyle, communicate dysmenorrhea with friends or mothers, use heat therapy and engage in self-talk, but less likely to self-medicate or seek medical advice for managing PD.


This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributors LC, HX, LT, SG and ACK contributed to the article. HX and LC designed the cross-sectional survey. LC, LT, SG and ACK contributed to data collection. LC drafted the manuscript and conducted data analyses. In addition, HX gave guidance on the paper. All of the authors gave final approval to the version submitted for publication.

  • Funding This research was supported by the independent exploration innovation subject for the graduate students of Central South University, Changsha (No 1053320171229).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The ethics approval was obtained from the Institutional Review Board of the Xiangya School of Public Health, Central South University (No XY-GW-2017-16).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No additional data are available.

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